By Wesley Gold, IMB Missionary to South Asia (Names have been changed for security purposes)
I can vividly remember the moment. My now wife, Emma, and I were on our very first date in West Palm Beach, sharing our stories underneath a Banyan tree overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Little did I know, this conversation between two naive college students would become a catalyst for us to eventually uproot everything and cross that very same ocean with the gospel a decade later.
It’s funny, as we were sharing our stories, it quickly became clear that we were not on the exact same page. I had a deeply burdened heart and vividly clear call to my native context of America, particularly for the unadulterated gospel to take root in an increasingly complacent church culture in the midst of an increasingly post-Christian secular culture in the United States. I wanted to see gospel- centered, Spirit empowered, biblically saturated church communities planted in their localized contexts, especially in the more secularized and influential urban environments of the US.
I was a fiery young whipper snapper who had radically encountered Jesus just a couple of years earlier, and I wanted everyone to know! You see, though I had grown up in an amazing, biblically literate, theologically rich, reformed church, I was the rebel of my family. I suppose as the youngest of six boys who all followed Jesus faithfully, I was able to get away with more. Or I was just so self- focused that I didn’t grasp my desperate need nor the beauty of our distinctly Christian household. Who knows.
But I lived like your classic younger brother, prodigal son—an utterly dual life in which, on one hand, I could talk circles around anyone wanting to debate Arminianism vs. Calvinism, or Dispensationalism vs. Covenant theology. Yet, on the other hand, I could also walk circles around anyone who wanted a challenge in beer pong.
I was your quintessential hypocrite.
Leading the youth group in memory verses and the mission’s team on overseas trips, while simultaneously sneaking out with girls, getting drunk every weekend and cheating my way through AP Calculus.
It was in college that I truly encountered Jesus. I was reading through the Gospels for the first time of my own accord, and Jesus’ words haunted me with piercing conviction: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate even their own life, they cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear their own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple… Yes, any one of you who does not renounce all that they have cannot be my disciple… He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:26-35) The Holy Spirit finally tore through my hardened, egotistical heart to convict me of my sin and show me my dire need for a Savior.
He gave me ears to hear.
And as soon as I repented of my hypocrisy & rebellion, and believed Jesus as my rescuer & righteousness, a complete one-eighty occurred. All of the sudden, the knowledge I grew up around took root in the soil of my heart and was put into high gear. I wanted everyone to know the beauty of this most gloriously wonderful news! God rescues sinners for relationship with Himself! God actually forgives me—forgives you, forgives us—of sin so that “He might be our God, and we might be His people. Behold! The dwelling place of God is with people.”
This is what fueled my passion for American urban church planting. I couldn’t let others miss out on any of this gospel glory due to complacent cultural “churchianity” or to cultural idols of a progressive secular age.
So, back to that date with Emma in West Palm Beach. A girl I really like. I have this fiery burden for my American people; she has this beautiful burden for the least reached peoples of the earth. I vividly remember her asking me, “So what do you think about missions?” Mind you—this is our FIRST DATE!
“Uhhhhh… missions?” I asked, puzzled. I had just shared my burning heart for America, and all she has in response is international missions?
Somehow, I convinced her that I would go anywhere as long as “God called me.” But secretly I wanted to stay. And not-so-secretly she wanted to go. This led us on a long-yet-wild-yet-unbelievable adventure to move overseas. A dream that in God’s good providence and kind leadership has been over a decade in the making. We started having conversations about topics unfamiliar to me at the time: unreached and unengaged peoples, the 10-40 window, what it means to be a “missionary.” I started reading books on mission—not least of which was Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad (if you haven’t read it, you’re welcome. But also, be prepared to pack your bags).
I studied the library of Scripture through the lens of the missio dei (a fancy theological term for “the mission of God”), and I had my eyes opened and heart captivated by God’s desire to be worshipped and glorified throughout the entirety of the globe! Beginning in Genesis, where Abraham is blessed in order to be a blessing to all the nations. To Habakkuk declaring, “The glory of YHWH will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” To the Psalmist worshipping, “Let the peoples (Hebrew: ethne) praise you, let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad in You and sing for joy!” To Jesus commissioning, “You will be my witnesses and make disciples to the ends of the earth.” To John’s revelation of “multitudes from every nation, tribe, people and language” worshipping the Lamb!
This vision has captured my attention and affection. So, for the past decade, my wife and I have been engaging in gospel-centered, mission-oriented ministry in post-Christian, urban contexts. We have engaged upper- class elites in Palm Beach, Nepalese, and Karen refugees in Aurora, and lower income black and Hispanic communities in Denver. We have also been a key part of planting churches in other parts of urban Denver. Yet, despite the tangible needs surrounding us, we cannot shake God’s burden for the least reached globally.
While local ministry in America is absolutely necessary, global missions is tragically neglected.
This propelled us to lead short-term trips to engage Albanian Muslims in Eastern Europe and Buddhists in Thailand. Now, we have become convinced that it is time for our family to join long term cross-cultural ministry. We have become utterly burdened by the concentrated lostness of 1.5 billion souls who are not connected to Jesus across South Asia.
So, with a God-seized dream that has been over a decade in the making, our church in the heart of 5 points Denver, the Summit, is not only sending us but providing ongoing support for our little family that longs to be a small part of the cosmic movement of God to see the gospel flourish as churches are planted among South Asians.
Except this time, it’s not just with that girl I chatted with on the shores of the Atlantic, whom I eventually married. It’s also alongside our three kiddos with the backing of an entire church family.
We couldn’t do this without you. May God receive all the glory He rightly deserves!